Car owners may have to pay to use 21 congested Delhi roads

Updated on Mar 12, 2018 09:35 AM IST

No time frame has been set about when the congestion fee will kick in.

Vehicles stuck in traffic jam in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area on March 5.(Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
Vehicles stuck in traffic jam in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area on March 5.(Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

The national Capital may soon become the first city in India to levy a toll on vehicles entering congested roads, several senior government officials familiar with the development said.

Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal, along with stake-holders such as the three municipal corporations and the Union urban affairs ministry, has zeroed in on 21 stretches in the Capital where congestion tax could be imposed in a bid to ease traffic and check pollution, two of the officials quoted above said.

The 21 stretches include the corridor between Aurobindo Chowk and Andheria More, Nehru Place flyover to Modi Mills flyover, areas around Hauz Khas metro station on the Outer Ring Road, the ITO intersection, and parts of Mehrauli-Gurgaon road, Mathura Road and Pusa Road, among others.

No time frame has been set about when the congestion fee will kick in. How much tax will be levied on which category of vehicle, and how it will be implemented are yet to be worked out as well.

“The LG has suggested a plan. I support the LG’s initiative 100%. It (congestion tax) will happen not only in Delhi but eventually everywhere across the country because the way vehicles are growing, it has become unsustainable,” Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri told Hindustan Times in an interview on March 7.

The stretches that have been picked are part of the 29 congestion points in the Capital that had been identified last year following a high court direction to Delhi government to come up with measures to ease traffic congestion.

“Modalities such as how much will be the tax and how it will be implemented, whether it will be through a payment card, etc are yet to be worked out. Also, any new tax will require legislative approval, which takes time,” said Ranbir Singh, the east Delhi municipal commissioner.

The head of the Delhi traffic police Deepender Pathak said, “The LG has asked DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Limited) to carry out a feasibility study of the corridors. One has to identify alternate routes for the corridors where such tax is imposed.”

Baijal could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.

According to Delhi government data, the number of cars registered in the city as of May 2017 was 31 lakh — the highest in the country — with a density of 93 cars per km of road. Pollution spikes in the city every winter, forcing officials to resort to stringent measures and declaring public health emergency in the city.

But transport experts say that imposing congestion tax is easier said than done. “First, such a tax can only work if you have a good framework like robust public transport and adequate parking space. Second, you will have to provide alternate routes, and give options to people. Third, one has to be clear about the nature of tax, if it will be imposed on entry to the city, or like London for entering central areas during certain times in the day,” said G Raghuram, a transport economist at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

In London, a congestion fee of P11.50 is imposed on weekdays in a 20-square km area around the city centre for vehicles entering between 7am and 6pm. London uses automatic number plate-recognition cameras at 348 entry sites, and vehicle owners entering the charged zones can either pay online through mobile phones or at specific stores. Singapore follows a similar system.

The Delhi government had toyed with the idea to levying congestion tax in the past. The Aadmi Party government had considered it in 2015 but officials said that one of the main reasons why the plan did not take off was a weak public transport system. Delhi’s bus fleet stands at 5,592 as against the requirement of 10,000.

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